Caring for Your Incision

Types of surgical incision closures

There are many different types of surgical incisions. Your surgeon will choose the best type of closure for your incision, based on the type of surgery and your own health condition. Here is some general information about each type of closure:

Sutures and Staples: In general, unless you have been told otherwise, you can shower 24 hours after surgery if you have sutures (stitches) or surgical staples in place. Clean the area with a mild soap and gently pat dry (do not rub). You will have a follow-up appointment for suture or staple removal, if they are not dissolvable.

Steri-strips: Steri-strips are narrow pieces of strong medical tape that hold an incision together. These can be placed alone or used along with other types of wound closure, like sutures or surgical glue. Sometimes, these are places after sutures are removed to promote continued skin closure. Steri-strips will fall off on their own, usually within two weeks. It is ok to get them wet, but do not soak them, or submerge them completely underwater. You can clean around the area with a mild soap and then pat dry.

Surgical Glue: Also called “tissue adhesive” or “liquid stitches,” surgical glue is medical grade skin adhesive that can be used to close most major and minor wounds. As with Steri-strips, you can shower with surgical glue, but avoid submerging or soaking and pat dry after cleaning with a mild soap.

Caring for your surgical incision at home

After discharge, you will need to continue to care for your surgical incision at home. Be sure you follow your surgeon’s specific instructions for the type of incision you have. Here are some general tips for caring for surgical incisions:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching your incision.
  • Inspect your incision every day and look for signs that there may be problems.
  • Avoid tight clothing that could rub against incisions.
  • Do not scratch at your incision. It is normal for wounds to itch as they heal but scratching at them delays healing and can cause infection.